Making Mini Games with Twiny Jam

Twine is my favorite tool for working with would-be game designers new to interactive media: as I’ve noted in the past, both the original Twine and Twine 2.0 are newbie-friendly and flexible platforms for building hypertextual experiences. However, embarking on a Twine project can be daunting: the possibilities of building choice-driven narratives can lead down infinite paths. It can be tricky to build an assignment or workshop structure that keeps Twine texts down to scale without cutting off too many possibilities. Twine is based on the idea of building passages, which can include as little as one text or image with a link to the next, or can potentially include pages and paragraphs of text. This flexibility is part of what makes Twine great for playing with ideas from a range of disciplines.

The recently-ended Twiny Jam, hosted by game designer Porpentine, offers a great model for an accessible challenge to Twine-making. The constraint of the jam is to make a game under 300 words. Twine includes an option to check word count in the story statistics, which makes it easy to keep track even when working on a first draft in the program. The incredible variety of submitted games in style, scale, content, and impact demonstrates how working within this type of constraint can pay off in creative work. And thanks to the jam, there are now lots of games on this scale to consider.

Here are a few games from the jam for inspiration–you can check out all 241 games on the jam site.

  • Stars by Lysander explores the artistry and poetics possible even alongside a short word count in a simple story about gazing at the night sky. This game, as shown in the screenshot above, is a great demonstration of what is possible in Twine as an audiovisual space.
  • A History of the Shore Regions by Porpentine uses Twine’s passages to break up the poetics in a work of flash fiction. Porpentine’s work is a striking example of what can be accomplished with text alone.
  • Ech.OS by Dennis Ramirez presents the operating system of a virtual consciousness uploading system. The short game echoes other technical interfaces and plays with interactivity.

I’ll definitely be setting this type of flash-fiction inspired word limit the next time I use Twine in a workshop or introduce it to a class.

Have you tried Twine in the classroom? Share your assignments in the comments!

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